A group of church member volunteers deliver food packages to the Aztlan V community in Tabasco, Southeast Mexico, for 60 families there, on Nov. 11, 2020. More than 150,000 people in the State of Tabasco were displaced after torrential rains swelled rivers and flooded communities remnants of Hurricane Eta’s fury in neighboring Central American countries earlier in Nov. [Photo: Courtesy of Southeast Mexican Union]

November 18, 2020 | Tabasco, Mexico | Victor Martínez and Inter-American Division News

More than 150,000 people suffered damage to their homes and were displaced after Hurricane Eta’s wrath in Central America swelled rivers and flooded communities in the State of Tabasco in southeast Mexico. In a region already saturated by the torrential rain from two previous hurricanes, Delta and Zeta, Eta’s downpour caused flooding two meters high, covering homes and leaving many to seek refuge in shelters.

Leaders in each of its regional church areas accounted for its members’ properties as early as Nov. 5, began transporting people to churches operating as shelters, and collected food and toiletries to assist the needy. Leaders reported that 3,778 Adventist families were affected. Most lost all their belongings and their homes.  In addition, leaders reported that 102 of its 259 churches were flooded across the state.

Volunteers sort out and package food and relief supplies at the Nicanor Gonzalez Mendoza Adventist School grounds for hundreds of families affected by the flooding in Tabasco, Mexico. [Photo: Courtesy of Southeast Mexican Union]

In a special message, Pastor Isaias Espinoza, president of the church in southeast Mexico, reminded church members in Tabasco to cling to God. “As a church we have one another. Let’s trust in the Lord because He is with us, do not be dismayed.”

Union administrators toured the city of Villahermosa, Tabasco, on Nov. 7, to assess damage and gather funds from its regional offices to assist the affected families. Other unaffected conferences and missions across the southern states began collecting food to distribute to dozens of families.

The Nicanor Gonzalez Mendoza Adventist School in Villahermosa, made its school bus available to transport dozens of people out of the flooded areas and into shelters.

People from flooded areas are transported on the Nicanor Gonzalez Mendoza Adventist School bus to safety in Villahermosa, Tabasco, on Nov. 9, 2020. [Photo: Courtesy of Southeast Mexican Union]

So far 38 Adventist churches and schools across the state have taken in 850 displaced persons and are providing hot meals and medical, psychological and spiritual care.

“In the Pomoca area, our brothers and sisters have been severely affected, but they are supporting each other by sharing hot meals, clothes and a place to rest,” said Pastor Humberto Lara, president of the church in the South Tabasco conference.  He said that pastors are holding support brigades to care for needy families in five of the most affected districts.

The Kalein Pathfinder and Master Club from the Macuspana Adventist Church rescued people trapped in their homes and set up a base camp nearby with a community kitchen. The kitchen is serving 400 meals daily to shelters and homes of needy families.

A few pews and items from the flooded Pomoca Adventist Church in Tabasco, lie on higher ground. [Photo: Courtesy of Southeast Mexican Union]

Erick López and his family are staying at the Febrero 27 Adventist Church because a church member convinced them to shelter there. “My wife and I have never been through a flooding before and we were really scared and came here mostly because of our children,” said López. “We have stayed here all these days and thank God that we are here because we have been well treated,” he said. López said he went to visit his home days later and found that the water had not receded. “It’s like the water is stuck there and there’s no telling when it can be safe to get back home.”

The national water commission reported that the torrential rains this year have been historic, exceeding widespread flooding in the region in 2007.

Erik López and his family stand in front of the room they are taking shelter at the Febrero 27 Adventist Church in one of the children’s department rooms, Tabasco, Mexico, on Nov. 8, 2020.  [Photo: Courtesy of Southeast Mexican Union]

Once the water subsides, the church is planning to help with cleanup in the communities mostly affected by flooding.  In the meantime, the church continues to distribute food bags and boxes of rice, beans, oats, corn meal, sugar, pasta, tomato paste, milk, water, toiletries, diapers, clothes, shoes and blankets.

Unaffected church conferences and missions across Tabasco will be collecting special offerings among its constituents to provide additional assistance. Leaders hope to provide 20 tons of food to distribute among the three flooded conference territories in Tabasco.

Adventist young people help clean up in some of the areas where the water has receded in several communities in Tabasco, Mexico. [Photo: Courtesy of Southeast Mexican Union]

To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southeast Mexico and its relief efforts, visit unionsureste.org.mx

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